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GAUCHOS

Cultural Identity

 

The Gauchos are without a doubt the most iconic and popular cultural group of Argentina, renowned worldwide for their unique skills in cattle herding and rural management. However, only a few people know that this group formed spontaneously as a rebel guerrillas in the Northwestern region, in the Provinces of Jujuy and Salta, during the independence war (1810-1816). Despite the stereotype often leads to believe otherwise, that Gauchos reached the Southern grasslands of la Pampa and Patagonia only after the war.

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After two centuries, the Gauchos still play an essential role in the Argentinean rural society and popular culture, being a point of reference for younger generation and enjoying great respect among adults countrywide. In most provinces of the Northwestern region, especially in Salta and Jujuy, the gauchos from different villages and towns are organized into specific groups, each of which has a distinctive flag, uniform and history. Beside their role in rural activities these groups can be observed parading during local and national festivals, often performing evocative rodeos (known as destreza gaucha) where they exhibit their skills with horses and ability in cattle herding, and dancing the chacarera in a distinctive choreography.

 

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Surprisingly for many, women play an essential role within the gaucho society, being the bridge between history and the new generations. Women are in fact responsible to pass on the gaucho traditions to their children and to raise them accordingly. Their social role is therefore crucial, however is not limited to the family sphere and often involve working with the cattle to help their men.

Each gaucho develops a symbiotic relationship with his horses; this animal is considered as an essential partner to execute daily tasks in the fields, and it’s the core of the whole gaucho tradition, defining the group’s identity. As a local say goes, there’s no gaucho without a horse.

BIOPHILIA shaped a series of projects to create a productive, dynamic link between the gauchos’ strong identity and the rural products that are being developed in the Quebrada de Humahuaca. The projects will contribute to transform the cultural potential of this groups into a unique added value for the products, reinforcing through this interaction both the rural economy of the region and its cultural heritage.

 

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The gauchos portrayed in the photographs featured on this page are from different groups, including the Gauchos del Fortín Juan Batista Cruz (image 1, 4 and 6) Gauchos de la Virgen de la Candelaria (image 3 and 5) and Gauchos del Fortín Coronel Arias (image 2) — which was the very first group to form in history. They were photographed in the surroundings of Humahuaca, between Peña Blanca and Uquía, during the annual six-days-long Gaucho March (Marcha Evocativa Gaucha) that takes pace between January and February in the region.

 

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